Looking Back on Our Preseason 2011-2012 Sharks Season Predictions

The San Jose Sharks are currently 8-5-1 which is good for fifth in the Western Conference and second in the Pacific Division. After losing three games in a row in early October, San Jose has gone on a tear that is quite remarkable considering they took a six-game road trip out East and came home to face three teams who will probably make the playoffs. It's easy to forget that the Sharks are 7-1-1 in their last nine games, but it's even harder to understate just how important (and successful) this run has been.

Sure the penalty kill has been atrocious and the goaltending could definitely be better. By and large however, the Sharks answered their early season adversity by doing what they set out to do this year-- establish consistency in the wins column, bank standings points early, and try to avoid facing an uphill climb from February through March. There is still a long, long time to go before meeting those goals, but right now the team is on the right route to get there.

At any rate, at the beginning of the regular season we made some predictions as to what the 2011-2012 Sharks season would entail. Today we take a look back at those predictions and see how we have done.

Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals during the 2011-2012 season. Coming off a season that saw him log a shooting percentage well below his career average, log third minute center duties, and still manage to finish first on the Sharks in shots with 282, Pavelski gets placed on the top line alongside Joe Thornton, quickly falls in love with the reduced responsibility of playing wing compared to his usual center role, and finishes the season with more goals than any Sharks player on the roster.

Joe Pavelski is in the midst of his best run during his professional career. He currently leads the team in points (17) and goals (9), is second on the team in plus/minus (+7), and is third on the team for shots on net (44). Producing points and generating scoring opportunities for his teammates is far from foreign to Pavelski of course, but scoring points at this rate is probably more than even the boldest of oracles could have predicted. We'll see how he continues to perform the rest of the year (as we mentioned before he'll probably slow down in the goal scoring category), but so far Pavelski has been a revelation. Prediction Grade: A

Thomas Greiss plays himself onto a full-time role with the team by the time Antero Niittymaki gets healthy. After a disappointing season abroad, Greiss makes a triumphant return to the NHL, helping to backstop the team during a rough start to the year from starting netminder Antti Niemi. With Al Stalock's injury healing at a superhuman rate (Stalock Saves himself this time, but rest assured he still plans to cure twice as much leprosy next offseason) and the Worcester Sharks receiving quality goaltending from Tomas Heemskerk, Harri Sateri, and Tyson Sexsmith in the AHL, the increased defensive acumen of the Sharks blueline complements Greiss' sometimes erratic and always aggressive style perfectly.

After spending a year abroad in the Swedish Elite League, Greiss has come back to North America hotter than a spicy Swedish meatball. In five games played Greiss has posted a miniscule 1.99 GAA to go along with a sterling .928 SV%. He hasn't received much in the way of playing time ever since Antti Niemi returned from injury, but that's no fault of his own-- Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan feels Niemi plays better when he logs a lot of ice time, meaning Greiss will be spending more time charting faceoffs from the bench than reading them from the crease during November. Niemi has had a rough start to the year as we predicted, making this one of the better guesses we've made thus far.

The only unanswered portion of this prediction is whether or not Greiss will lock down a full-time role with the team when Antero Niittymaki returns from injury. We'll cover that topic later this week. Prediction Grade: A-

Joe Thornton finds himself in the Selke conversation for the first time in his career. Jumbo Joe starts where he finished last season. He leads the League in takeaways, sees his point totals return to a point per game, and does it all against the toughest competition amongst Sharks forwards.

So far so good for Jumbo Joe, who reached the point per game plateau against the Kings by adding a goal and an assist in the Sharks 4-2 win. He has continued where he left off last season defensively, posting a +5 and backchecking like a motorized robot whose only purpose in life is to hunt down puck carriers. One thing that Thornton has seemed to do even better this season is utilize his long reach in the defensive end-- he's been knocking pucks loose and cutting off passing lanes with regularity, showing that the Captain's defensive turnaround last season was no mirage.

Thornton is currently 7th in the NHL with 15 takeaways, as Pavel Datsyuk continues to post big numbers in this category. Furthermore, Thornton is not seeing the toughest competition amongst Sharks as we predicted he would be-- quality of competition numbers take about 25-30 games to normalize before they become truly useful, but we've got to play this one by the book and penalize ourselves for being wrong at this stage. Prediction Grade: B

Brent Burns is mediocre defensively throughout the year, but his defenseman-leading point totals and partner Marc-Edouard make those concerns somewhat irrelevant. Despite some rather glaring errors in his own end, Burns gets better and better defensively throughout the 2011-2012 season and sets the tone for what will be a Norris caliber campaign in 2012-2013.

Brent Burns has had a great year in San Jose thus far, but our prediction has misfired on a couple of levels. Burns started off the year with some defensive mishaps that ended up in the back of the Sharks net, but has become much better defensively ever since the Sharks took a six-game road trip out East. Three goals and two assists are nothing to sneeze at either, as Burns has pumped 32 pucks on net this year with a quick release wrist shot and a booming slapper that should make opposing players consider wearing two cups before playing San Jose.

With Boyle leading the way offensively however, potting nine points compared to Burns' five, this prediction is missing the mark. Prediction Grade: C+

Dany Heatley scores 35 goals in Minnesota while Havlat bounces in and out of the lineup with various bumps and bruises. After being traded from his third team throughout his career, Heatley takes a newfound passion in his offseason training regiment, enters the season on a tear, and proceeds to light the lamp with frequency alongside supremely underrated centerman Mikko Koivu. Havlat is an extremely effective part of the Sharks lineup when healthy, his speed meshing well with Couture and Clowe en route to a 21 goal season, but nagging injuries cause him to play 61 games throughout the year.

After missing the first four games of the year as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Martin Havlat has been one of the most exciting players to watch this year. He is explosive on the rush, dazzling with the puck, and the best player not named Joe Thornton at setting the table for his teammates to succeed. There's literally nothing bad you can say about Havlat's play right now unless you're named Bartimaeus. The only concern is whether or not he can stay healthy, as it has been a concern throughout his career.

Heatley is on pace for 29 goals this season in Minnesota with 5 goals in 14 games, decent totals but not quite the 35 goal pace I imagined he would be turning in (pretend, for a moment at least, that the difference between a 29 vs. a 35 goal pace at this point in the season wasn't an extra goal). Outside of Heatley, Setoguchi, Cullen, and Latendresse the Wild have not been scoring, instead relying on their goaltending to win games. Some things never change in Minnesota eh?

This prediction is kind of all over the place-- Havlat has been an "extremely effective part of the Sharks lineup", but has been contributing in the assist column and not in the goals category. Furthermore, he hasn't missed any time besides the time everyone understood he would miss. Lastly, Heatley has been just okay in Minnesota-- not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but also not the comeback season I was expecting for him. Prediction Grade: D+

Despite the best Sharks roster in the history of the franchise, San Jose has to clinch the Pacific on the final week of the regular season. A Kings team blessed with health all season long doesn't slow down in November like they did last season, and various injuries to the Sharks top six throughout the year put pressure on their scoring depth. Backed by the goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles goes toe to toe with San Jose the entire year. It all leads to a home and home in the season's final weekend, where the Sharks manage to get three points and clinch their fifth Pacific Division title in a row.

Despite the Kings struggles and the Stars magic season thus far, I'm still holding firm to the assertion that this will be a two dog race for the Pacific between San Jose and Los Angeles by the end of the year. It's much too early to hand out grades for this one, as it deals with the last week of the season. If you have a time machine definitely let us know. Prediction Grade: TBD

Vlasic continues to go unnoticed across the League, and I continue to use the term "underrated" to describe him in order to childishly illuminate my "excellent" analytical skills. I come off looking like an egocentric hipster in the process, drinking a 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon every night while listening to whatever Pitchfork says I should listen to in order to dull the pain.

I haven't been drinking much Pabst, but I do treat Pitchfork with the same reverence a Catholic treats wafers and wine on a Sunday morning. Vlasic has been the best Sharks defenseman by leaps and bounds this season. By the way-- did you hear that he is underrated. Because he is. Oh. So. Underrated.  Prediction Grade: A

Jamie McGinn scores 6 goals during the year and we write a post like this after every single one of them.

McGinn potted a big goal last Thursday against the Penguins and has played well all season long, utilizing his size and speed to wreak havoc on the forecheck and cause opposing teams to think twice before heading into the corner to retrieve a dump-in. Much to my dismay however, last weekend was a busy time for me and ended without a post on the psychological musings of Mr. McGinn as he banged home his first goal of the year.

With self loathing at an all-time high for your intrepid blogger, and disappointment painfully eroding my weary heart, there is only one way to try and make amends for my utter failure at celebrating the undeniable talents of the almighty James McGinn. I have failed as a writer; nay, I have failed as a human being. May god have mercy on my soul. Prediction Grade: F

The Sharks roar out of the gate, hit a midseason lull in mid December through early January, pick it up again only to run into difficulty during a 7 game road trip in February, but put the finishing touches on a 108 point season by catching fire all through the month of March. This is ultra specific so you know it's going to be right on the money.

When I said roar out of the gate I meant purr sweetly and chase around red laser pointers. Just wanted to make that clear.

San Jose got off to a 1-3 start this season, but have turned it around by going a magnificent 7-1-1 since. They are currently on pace for 107.23 points this season however, so I'm going to give myself some bonus points and a gold star for being on the money there. Hey, I'll take what I can get... from myself? Hmm. That statement doesn't really work when you are the one handing out the grades. Prediction Grade: C-